Dominic of Epicycle explains:
The overall problem, as I see it (and this is where, when talking to my friend, I started waving my arms a lot) is that the government is using the wrong sort of IT company to design and build these systems: they are fixated on the idea that when you need a large scale IT project, only a large scale IT company can possibly do the job. This leads them inexorably to the UK's big name consultancies - the likes of Anderson (or whatever they are calling themselves since the Enron embarrassment), Ernst & Young, Siemens Business Services, KPMG, Cap Gemini, or indeed my old nemesis Sema.
I'm convinced that this isn't necessarily the case, though. There are some extremely keen and talented analysts and programmers working for small IT companies in the UK, and these little firms are sleek, nimble and hungry... Unlike the big boys they don't expect £100,000 just to turn up to the first consultancy meeting, and with a complete lack of giant glass-walled office buildings and squadrons of overpaid managers in Mercedes, their idea of an outrageous fee is many orders of magnitude less than anything their more bloated cousins would ever contemplate. Furthermore, their staff usually take a far greater pride in their work than the faceless contract clones who end up employed by the big consultancies, and really care about delivering what they have promised, on time and in budget. Contract staff can leave behind their mistakes when they move to other projects or other companies - but if a small company is going to survive at all, it simply can't afford to make those sorts of mistakes in the first place, and this almost always shows in the overall quality of the systems that they produce.
Why do buyers think that bigger companies are better? Because they have heard of them, simply a matter of publicity. That is why I founded Presto Vivace, Inc. Simply getting a good feature story will give a small company the high profile they need to compete. Better copy for readers, better stories for reporters, better value for taxpayers, everybody wins.